Minneapolis firm gets about $200M for Wisconsin shoemaker Allen Edmonds

  • Article by: NEAL ST. ANTHONY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 4, 2013 - 9:23 PM

Minneapolis owner sells the Wisconsin-based men’s shoe brand for a reported $200 million.

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Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison of Minneapolis sold Allen Edmonds, the Wisconsin based maker of men's shoes, to Brentwood Associates. File photo of President George W. Bush visiting the Allen Edmonds factory near Milwaukee in 2006.

Photo: KAREN SHERLOCK, VIA BLOOMBERG NEWS

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The Minneapolis owner of Allen Edmonds has sold the shoemaker to a California investment firm, the firms said Monday, in a deal that will keep the iconic made-in-the-USA brand independent.

Los Angeles-based Brentwood Associates paid about $200 million to Goldner Hawn Johnson & Morrison for Allen Edmonds, which is based in Port Washington, Wis., 25 miles north of Milwaukee.

“All we need to keep going on our exciting growth trajectory is some additional capital and some best-­practice insights that Brentwood Associates can bring from its other consumer companies,” said Paul Grangaard, a veteran Minneapolis businessman who has been chief executive of Allen Edmonds since 2008.

“This is a chance to remain in control of our own destiny and developing our own brand without having to explain to somebody larger how we fit,” he said. “Brentwood fits our culture.”

Men’s Wearhouse and other large retailers had been rumored suitors of Allen Edmonds in recent days.

Allen Edmonds, which has a workforce of about 1,000 employees, expects to be profitable this year on revenue that will grow about 20 percent to $145 million.

“The Allen Edmonds brand fits perfectly with our strategy of investing in category-defining brands with exceptional customer loyalty,” Brentwood partner Steve Moor said in a statement. “We are confident that tremendous growth lies ahead for the brand.”

Grangaard resigned from Minneapolis-based Goldner Hawn in 2008, two years after it acquired Allen Edmonds as part of an investment consortium.

As Allen Edmonds’ fortunes sank during the recession, Goldner Hawn invested another $10 million in 2008-2009 to keep Allen Edmonds from closing its doors as other equity partners wrote off their stakes and backed out. Gran­gaard, a career investment banker and manager, moved to Wisconsin to try to turn around the flailing company.

The total Goldner Hawn has invested since 2006 is unclear, but the deal, after seven years, is considered a financial winner.

Grangaard, who has added 250 manufacturing and sales jobs since 2010, has an office in downtown Minneapolis, which includes retail-and-merchandise headquarters for Allen Edmonds, staffed mostly with Dayton’s and Target veterans. A downtown store in City Center is doing well, Grangaard said, and a second Minneapolis-area store is being planned.

Last year, Grangaard also opened Allen Edmonds stores in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. Well-heeled Chinese businesspeople aren’t shy about paying $600, including tariffs and taxes, for a pair of American-made Allen Edmonds dress shoes that cost about $300 in the United States.

“Our golf shoes are growing faster in China than here,” Grangaard said of a business that’s being developed with retired pro Jack Nicklaus. “They are crazy about golf and Jack Nicklaus.”

Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144

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